Washington Supreme Court holds racial covenants in public records must be retained but can be marked void

Construing a state statute, Wash. Stat. §49.60.227, the Washington Supreme Court held that racial covenants cannot be completely excised from public records. The court determined that the statute allowed a court order to be filed with the recorded title voiding the covenant but did not authorize excising the covenant from the public records entirely. This result occurred despite the fact that the statute provided that courts should “strik[e] the void provisions from the public records.” Wash. Stat. §49.60.227(1)(b). The statute did provide that the original record “shall be separately maintained in the county’s records.” This meant that the public title would note the illegality of the limitation but public records would continue to document the historical existence of the covenant. The court explained that “future generations [should] have access to these documents because, although the covenants are morally repugnant, they are part of a documented history of disenfranchisement of a people.” May v. Spokane County, 506 P.3d 1230 (Wash. 2022).